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Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - October 22, 1974, Lethbridge, Alberta TuMday, October THE LETHBRIDQE HERALD 5 Welfare state exacts too high a price By Roland Huntford, London Observer commentator STOCKHOLM My 11 years in Sweden have been a somewhat dispiriting ex- perience, for I have watched the development of what self styled progressives from the four corners of the earth are pleased to see as a model for the future. If this is really the prospect before us, I see little reason for joy. A visiting journalist once described Sweden as "a totalitarian state mas- querading as a democracy." It was a remarkable flash of percipience based as it was on his first interviews with trade union bureaucrats. It was also a nice piece of irony, since the man had been invited by the Swedish government, which is increasingly preoccupied with its image abroad, and ex- cessively keen on demonstrating that it really presides over the most democratic of all democracies. But this judg- ment at any rate expresses the reason for my discontent as few will now need to be reminded, is the epitome of the welfare state; the model of affluence, where poverty is, outlawed; the Mecca of the social engineer. It is egalitarian, orderly, well' run and mostly efficient. But the price has been too heavy for my taste. As the welfare state has been extend- ed and private enterprise controlled, so have the government bureaucracy and the labor movement apparat consolidated their power. If their history had been different, the Swedes might be said to have sold their birthright for a mess of pot- tage. Two centuries ago, however, Voltaire remarked that the Swedes were the only people he knew who, sup- posedly possessed of all possi- ble freedom, gladly abrogated all their rights to a strong ruler. He was talking about that royal despot, Charles XII, but his remarks apply equally well to the constitutionally elected Social Democratic government of today. In the course of my coverage here, I have watched many parliamentary elec- tions. On several occasions the opposition non socialist parties have been on the verge of winning power. But at the last moment they have ratted and done some murky deal with the government, as if afraid of change. That is why the Social Democrats have remained in power for 42 years and, Berry's World "I've decided what I want to be a rich despite a present parliamen- tary deadlock, are securely in the saddle. The official government propagandists, perturbed at the sight of a regime that has now outlived most overt dic- tatorships, try to explain away the situation by blaming the ineptitude of opposition politicians. This is spurious argumentation. I have come to the conclusion that it is what the man in the street wants. He is afraid of a change of government because it would mean change, and the threat of insecurity. He has no interest in politics: he only wants good administration and strong rulers. Given this growing meekness of the ruled, the rulers have understandably advanced their position. The legislature, never very power- ful inSweden, has been reduc- ed to a cipher. The real power lies in-the hands of the party bosses, the bureaucrats and the trade union leaders, who together form an impregnable ruling establishment. I have watched the advance of a corporative society that would have gladdened the heart of that disappointed Socialist, Benito Mussolini. The individual- has been suppressed and corporative organizations have taken over. Most ominous -of all, I have seen the evolution of a voluntary collective tyranny. Group think has triumphed. The collective has been elevated above all else. It is as if the average Swede has decided that liberty rocks the boat: that to forgo it is a reasonable price to pay for social security. There is an in- tolerance of independent thought. Deviation from the collective consen- sus, is now regarded as among the worst of crimes. Any parliamentarian, for ex- ample, who ventures a private conviction that contradicts the national consensus will be publicly crucified by his political kith and kin. Saddest of all, this "tyranny of the compact majority" as the Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen once put it, has been promoted by the media. There is no censorship in Sweden; it is superfluous, see- ing that the media censoi themselves by instinct. One incident sticks in my mind. During the Vietnam war when the Swedish consen- sus was rabidly anti American, and it was decided- ly not polite to deviate from that line, I was approached by the editor in chief of a chain of newspapers. Could I not arrange to have a piece published saying that all Swedes were not really anti American and that there was a sizeable minority genuinely worried about the official line? Although he believed it to be true, he dared not print the story because it would be breaking a taboo and would damage the reputation of his group. But he could quote what a foreign newspaper said with impunity. It is not perhaps an attitude familiar in the Western democracies, to which Sweden technically belongs, but it is well known to those familiar with Eastern Europe. Indeed, a refugee from East Germany once rang me up to say that she had seen much, but never thought to witness a people voluntarily putting itself in chains. She was emigrating to America, for the sake of her children, whom she did not want to grow up in what she termed "a creeping dictatorship." "The question I put to she said, "is at what point does a democracy end and dictatorship begin? I think Sweden is approaching this point." All this is terribly depressing, but all cannot be unrelievedly dark and hopeless, it might be argued. There must be some light among the shadows. True enough, but it is on the dangers and the threats to a way of life that one must concentrate when one is under siege. In Sweden, the compen- sations are from God, not man. Thus, all the prosperity and orderliness derive from a happy accident: a country rich in natural resources with a population in proportion, and not too large. The real lesson to be learned is that of size. Perhaps a small country has something to be said for It's no mystery... the biggest sewing savings are at SINGER Talented TOUCH sewing machine with cabinet SateMbon Special ftag. Price You get System especially tor today's knit and stretch fabrics. pusWWBon bottom winding, built-m button- holer and 15 buflNn sMctws! Gel Touch Sew now, Ihc pnoc is so tow. FASHION ZIGZAG SafcMhon Price A Zjo-zaQ flittdfauMS wllh 3 posSons to let you sew buttonholes, sew on buttons, overedge and mend-all without attachments. Plus, Singcr-cxduave Sroni drop-in ixUriu and snap-on pi essei fool Laurentian Cabinet 9QOFF Price The machine ol today and louiuit nytete wJSi catonel! Features Singer exduswes buH-in prcHiHaaunal one-step bunorthoter. front drop-in IxMwi with see-ftrouglh (MjUUiii window, oasy Say-in Spreading, sttann noodte design and more. Tata quick advanugedf tons eanawdiraiycfler-NCW! Sin built-in stitches-3 stretch plus 'straight', zig-zag, btmdhem-handle any fabric. And there's self-threading tain-op lever, snap-on presser foot SINGER VACUUM CLEANERS Choose 9 dual-action vibrator brush and adjustable piie sdertwn. Or, a cawslerirawJ- el complete with at tocbments. Uberal traDe-an allowance m ytm M sewmg roadhire regardless d mate. CwSil terms available DON'T MISS SINGER'S BIGGEST SALE EVENT OF THE YEAR! SINGER it. Thus argument about Sweden has been focused wrongly: it has concentrated on system where it ought to be devoted to the question of size. There are other small countries, notably Switzerland, which is just as well run, but boasts less and whose neutrality, inciden- tally, is refreshingly honest, consistent and worthier of respect. So those who look to Sweden as a model for the world might do better to see it in relation to size rather than socialism versus the opposite. As far as I am concerned the Sweden experiment is too -close to 1984 and Brave New World for comfort. And there has been no comfort in the fact that the present prime minister, Mr. Olof Palme, has harried certain foreign cor- respondents when their reporting does not mirror the official line. But Sweden has not been my whole parish. Finland, with which I have been concerned, has also been a source of gloom. While the Finns are wholly admirable, history has put them at the mercy of Russia. Their rulers have decided that appeasement is the path to take. I have conse- quently watched how freedom of expression has been whittl- ed away to avoid antagonizing' the Kremlin. Finland in many respects has taken on the semblance of a Soviet albeit with a con- stitutional Western form of government. The word coined to designate this particular con- dition, is not an empty term. It, too, may have ominous connotations for the rest of Western Europe. The real compensations have come from Norway and Denmark. There, the process and mentality of Western democracy still flourish. Both are traditionally Social Democratic strongholds, and bulwarks of the welfare state, but they lack the totalitarian trends of Sweden. Both to their credit have recently deposed Socialist governments in the interests of healthy politics and change. In both countries, people-are willing to fight for their ideas, to criticize, and to respect the view of the individual. Both have avoided the spiritual aridity which will be my abiding memory of Sweden. On the whole, my Scandina- vian years have not induced particular optimism. -There are trends which suggest that I may indeed have peeped into the future, that this is what the political bosses elsewhere are diligently trying to copy, and that what is in store for the West may indeed be a "totalitarian state mas- querading as a democracy." That, in a sentence, is the lesson I have learned. Books in brief "That IMsgracefBl Affair: The Black Hawk War" by Cecil Eby (George J. McLeod Ltd., 354 pages, It is a toss-up whether the book's title pertains to the final slaughter of the Sank In- dians or to tbe cowardly, inept performance of tbe American militia early in the war. Tbe "battle" of StiUman's Run reads like a scene of Laugh- In, but unfortunately for the Americans is a serious battle in a war that is bard to explain in the first place. Tbe war is peopled witt the likes of Jefferson Davis and young Abraham Lincoln, who started oat as a captain .but finished ont tbe war as a private. The future U.S. presi- dent failed to see much action and is quoted as saying about his fighting days, "I had a good many bloody with mosquitoes." Author Eby has pot together an interesting, historical work, that starts slowly but becomes more and more intriguing as one reads on. Tbe author uses a line in tbe book that suns 19 tbe whole war "For so long it was a farce, but it ended as a brutal slaughter." GARRY ALLISON Does this sound familiar? By Eva Brewster, freelance writer "Wtteh" by Barbara Mkteeb (Dodd, Mead tad Co., 274 Ellen finds tbe house of her dreams at Cbew's Corners, not realizing tbe inevitable and almost fatal drama that win be played out duilng ber short stay there. A bewitching story spun around an oM 17th .centory boose, and a legend of a witch and a white cat. Sand, ISRAEL Economic problems in Israel are as alarming and confusing these days as they are anywhere in the world. The now almost humdrum scandals such as speculations in foreign currency through the International Credit Bank of Geneva, Israel Corporation involvement in such affairs and the usual warnings that investors may lose faith only go to show that Israelis are neither supermen nor necessarily financial wizards. But, hand in hand with the kind of manoeuvers that have already sent banks in Germany, Britain and now Switzerland into Bankruptcy, goes the unsettling distrust of government and press assurances and the suspicion that here too-the public is being cheated. A good example (perhaps of specific interest to Canada with her many foreign owned supermarkets) is Moshe Ater's report on Super Sol 'profits'. Super Sol is a cor- poration of Israeli supermarkets, the pride and joy of business modelled on "the American Dream." "In the year ending last February, its sales amounted to approximately million one third higher than the previous year. However, says Ater, the rise.was mostly due to higher prices while real business growth was less than 10 per cent and is likely to be even smaller this year due to the marked shift of consumers to cheaper food such as to frozen meat instead of fresh and to poultry instead of steaks. "The company currently operates 21 super- markets (compared to 12 four years another three will be opened by the end of the year and the firm plans to start yet four more stores in 1975. This' steady expansion is ex- pected to continue for the next decade or so." That sounds reasonably optimistic to me and that is probably the place where the average person would stop reading but now comes the rub: Since each new supermarket at present involves an investment of one million dollars or thereabouts, this program requires capital funds on a much larger scale than tbe com- pany's turnover warrants. Super Sol seems to have solved this thorny problem by an ingenious system the lease back device. Under this system, the stores built and equipped by Super Sol are sold to outside groups and leased from them at a fix- ed annual rate. The Netanya super market, for instance, has been bought and largely financed by a German group who now rents it back to Super-Sol for 20 years at a rate of 9.5 per cent of the invested of all charges except income tax. According to Moshe Ater's report, only seven of the com- pany's stores have been retained in Super Sol's ownership. At this point, the alert Israeli reader may wonder how much of Israel still belongs to him just as the German does who realizes that Iran has already purchased 25 per cent of the Krupp concern in Germany, or the Lon- doner whose residential areas were bought with Arabs' oil dollars. Certainly, such thoughts would not surprise a Canadian who has lived with the idea of Americans owning vast shares of our economy for a generation or more. To the Israeli reader the after thought that "Super Sol's operating profit rate advanced steadily" or that "the revolu- tion in the retail food trade is sure to contine" is no consolation for his very real suspicion that somebody is pulling his leg. However, there may be another way of looking at the lease back device: Experience has proved that no nation can go it alone. We are all, whether we like it or not, interdependent and a fund of foreign currency is essential for every economy in the world today. The U.S. is no exception if she wants to keep up her balance of payments in the international money market. At this time, faced with problems not unlike Super Sol's, she might weU be willing to consider a similar system of operating her various cor- porations not necessarily just super- markets in Canada. While in our case the result would be the reverse of that in other countries since we would be buying within Canada's borders and lease back to outsiders it might still be a good idea to suggest such a scheme to our governments. It wouldn't1 be the first good system adopted from a precedence in Israel but it would then be up to the Canadian investor to prove how serious he really'is in his opposition to foreign ownership. Subsidizing inflation By Norman Cousins, editor or Saturday President Ford has called for -an all out war on inflation and has asked the American people to have courage in facing up to hard choices. And he announced that the govern- ment is cutting back on subsidies to fanners not totgrow food. Even itself is still spending hundreds of millions of dollars in keeping acreage out of cultivation. You don't have to be, a professional economist to know that, so long as the supply of foofl is inadequate to the demand, prices will continue to rise. And, with a world food shortage facing us for as far ahead as anyone can see, demand will continue to exceed the supply. Against-this background, spending a single dollar to hold back food production is as morally indefensible as it is economically unsound. A generation ago, when there were some 70 million fewer mouths to feed in the United States, to say nothing of the outside world, it made sense to the government to keep acreage out of cultivation. Surpluses were raising economic havoc with the American farmer. But the situation is completely turn- ed around today. Shortages, not surpluses, represent the main problem. Along with oil, food is a critical factor in the present world crisis. Only as we find ways of-increasing production is there any hope of averting an ominous breakdown. If the government is serious about bringing food prices within manageable limits, it could do three things. First, it could take some of the money it is using to hold back production and use it to subsidize a reduction in the cost of feed for livestock. Sky-high costs of feed produce a chain reaction in inflation that penalizes many farmers no less than con- sumers. Second, the government should invest in fertilizer research, especially in nitrogen fixation which has the potentitality for doubling the world food supply. Third and most important of all, the government should offer incentives to fanners for increasing food production. If it is argued that this would result in knocking the bottom out of food prices, the answer is that fair price supports under conditions of maximum production are both legitimate and essential. Book review The wheat deal two years ago with the Soviet Union has been severely criticized because it cut so heavily into America's food reserves. On balance and taking into account the total picture, a good case can be made for that transaction. Far less defensible, however, was the payment to farmers of more than billion to restrict food produc- tion that next year. Nothing is more axiomatic in politics or economics than the fact that national weakness begins with underproduction. Overproduction can create serious problems, too, but they are as nothing compared to the problems of 'chronic shortages. The biggest single problem of the Soviet Union since its inception has been its inability to grow enough food or to manufacture enough goods. After many years of trial and error, the Soviets came around to incentives as the best to step up production. It is ironical that the United States, which has demonstrated its high productive capacity, should now be pur- suing policies that inhibit maximum produc- tion not just in agriculture but in industry. And the irony is compounded by the fact that it is a Republican administration that is pursuing such policies. The campaign to persuade the American people not to buy, for example, could boomerang and touch off an epidemic of bankruptcies. Thousands of small businesses and so small could be seriously hurt by the national policy of discouraging spending by individuals. Many businesses are already in precarious condition. They are short of operating capital and cannot afford to borrow money at the present exorbitant interest rates. Against this touch-and-go background, the government is courting economic disaster with policies that both devitalize the economy and produce massive unemployment' The restoration of confidence by Americans in their government is the biggest need today of the American people. That need will not be met by policies that limit our productive capacity, fragment our strength and, worst of all, dampen our spirits. Travelling in Africa "Utk a UM ta Ike Eye" by Kctftrya Htlmc, (Attattfc Uttfe BTOWB, price m In the fall of 1971, tbe author and her very good friend Lou on whom her famous best seller Tbe Nun's Story was based, and another friend Julie, made a 2900 mile safari through Ore great national parks of Kenya and Tanzania. Lou was an experienced Africa hand having spent seven years in the Congo as a nurse; Juliet, the horticultarist. was on her third African safari; bnt it was a completely new and fresh adventure for Kathryn Hnlme. Her story reflects the enthusiasm, intensity and brilliance of expression so evident in her fonnCT DOOICS. Unlike many books written about a country with the vast spaces, contrasts and color of Africa, wherein the authors try to make themselves into instant experts and end up being tedious and too often incorrect because ANNE SZALAVARY OT inability to grasp tbe significance of their impressions of that great continent, this one is well written. As they travel from one place to another under the expert guidance of their professional driver and escort, who is something of a naturalist, .they run into un- usual luck in seeing some rarities. The author recounts these experiences with a rare abili- ty to interpret through eye-witness im- pressions in a way that makes very good reading. Her writing is enhanced by some ex- cellent photographic illustrations. Two of these adventurers were in their seventies and tbe third in her sixties, which proves that nobody need be hampered by the years when it comes to planning an expedi- tion and standing op to some very rough travel. At tbe cod of each day they sat around tbe fire comparing notes and enjoying themselves like people much younger in .years. Kathryn Holme displays a fine ability to share tbese moments of excitement with her readers. ANDY RUSSELL ;